We are performing something of an experiment with this issue. Alongside our usual collection of standalone component reviews, we are trying out complete system features. We have selected several complete front-to-back systems, at prices ranging from the (almost) mild to the distinctly (wild), all put together to sound good.
One of these systems came from a single distributor. One came from a dealer who pieced together the system with care. One came from balancing out products with very different sonic properties, and one was highlighting the return to the UK of an outstanding loudspeaker brand, and wrapped a highly successful system around that launch. All are pieced together with great care and attention, rather than thrown into the ring by virtue of lowest possible price.
In truth, we're not sure how such system features will play with you, the reader. We've tried these before with mixed success – people like the idea of a system-related approach to audio reviewing more than they like the actual mechanics of system-building. We welcome your emails on this topic – should this remain a one-off, or should it be a regular fixture in the magazine?
I think this move to a more systemic approach is becoming increasingly popular. People are building systems from scratch (in part because audio has become more fluid and changing today) and doing so with greater forethought than the ‘throw it all together, it all works' approach of old. The systemic approach was what kept Linn and Naim at the top of the audio tree during the 1980s, and we've all learned their lessons well. Whether it's system building from scratch, refreshing an existing system with new products, or simply trying to bring all the products in line through careful treatment and tuning, this more considered approach to audio has become a part of the mainstream, and long may that continue to be the case!
Paradoxically, it's harder to make big mistakes in today's audio world. Most products are well engineered and intercompatible, but the more you think about audio systemically, the further you get from mediocrity.
Our congratulations go out to the winners of our latest competition, in association with our friends at HiFiMAN. Mark Ramos of Edinburgh received a pair of excellent HE-1000, Neville Midwood of Milton Keynes wins the super HM-901s, while Tan Wee Hiong of Singapore, Michael Wiseman of Missouri, and Anthony Kimball in New York all receive a pair of superb HE 400s. Well done!